The deeper we get into the rehearsal process for Hero Worship with Signature in the Schools, the deeper and farther reaching some of the questions we come across become. How do we define “hero”? Are all heroes the same? How do they differ? Is there a simple similarity present between heroes across vastly different cultures?
As historian and writer Joseph Campbell wrote, “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
Steps in The Heroic Journey
(With Examples from Star Wars)
- The Call to Adventure
The hero accidentally ends up on a journey, or deliberately pursues it out of a sense of adventure or because they are provoked. They may at first refuse the call, but ultimately they pursue it.
Luke Skywalker receives an invitation to leave his home planet Tatooine, but refuses. When his family is killed, he agrees to leave.
- Crossing the First Threshold
As part of his initiation, the hero must leave the familiar, comfortable bounds of his world.
Luke leaves Tatooine with Han Solo.
- Supernatural Aid
The hero receives assistance from a mentor, often an older, wiser, or magical figure.
Obi-Wan Kenobi gives Luke his training.
The hero must face a series of tests; often he fails some of the tests, which help him grow.
Yoda trains and tests Luke.
- Meeting with the Goddess
The hero experiences a love that becomes a powerful motivation; it could be romantic love or friendship/family love
Luke cares for Princess Leia.
- “The Belly of the Whale”
The hero must face his deepest fears and overcome the final challenge.
Luke confronts the Emperor and Darth Vader while his friends fight without him.
- Atonement with Father
The hero must confront the idea or person that has the most power over his life; often a father-figure
Luke must reconcile with his father, the evil Darth Vader.
- Apotheosis and Ritual Death
The Hero recognizes the power within himself and completes his transformation into a Hero; sometimes involves literal death
Luke recognizes that he is truly a Jedi; Darth Vader dies saving him and becomes one with the Force
- The Ultimate Boon
The hero gains his goal.
Luke achieves peace and safety in the galaxy.
- Crossing of the Return Threshold
The hero returns home. Sometimes he may need magical assistance in a final exciting adventure. Ultimately, the hero must accept the everyday world again, although he as a person has changed dramatically.
Luke returns to his friends and must accept his role as a Jedi.
- The Master of Two Worlds
The hero finds a balance between the spiritual and physical worlds and either prepares for his next calling or uses his new knowledge to better his society.
Luke becomes a wise, brave Jedi knight.
Carl Jung’s archetype theory suggests that we will always be drawn to the idea of a hero, and that the potential to be a hero exists in every person. Joseph Campbell builds upon this idea by explaining the transformation a hero undergoes, and encouraging us to dare the heroic quest ourselves.